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GreenFuel experimented with growing algae in tubes and bags at its Arizona pilot farm. While most of its competitors are sticking to these methods, GreenFuels has developed a closely-guarded greenhouse technologies which grows algae at higher yields and an automated system to harvest the crop. It will be debutting this setup at a commercial scale plant in Spain, to be complete in 2011.  (Source: PetroAlgae)
Algae company's harvest will make biodiesel, nutritious livestock feed

Many in the alternative fuels industry agree that algae is where the mid-range future of the biodiesel industry lies.  While fuels such as ethanol and cellulosic ethanol may prevail in the short term, algae is seen as the final stepping stone before full synthetic gasoline production.  This value is due to algae's ability to grow rich long chain hydrocarbons.  When algae is genetically engineered, it can produce large amounts of oil that is essentially diesel grade. 

The big question with algae tech is not whether it will arrive, but when it will arrive.  DailyTech had previously followed Cambridge, Mass. based GreenFuel Technologies' effort to bring its specially bred algae to the market.  The company, founded by MIT graduates, had built a pilot farm in Arizona, previously.  By growing algae in tubes, it found that algae would get optimal sun exposure.  Its only problem was that it grew too much algae, blocking out light, and eventually killing part of the crop.

Now GreenFuel is taking its experience and has become the first algae company to announce a profitable business deal and the construction of a commercial scale growth facility.   Spain's Aurantia, a leading alternative energy investment firm, has agreed to pay GreenFuels $92M to build a 100 hectacre (250 acre) algae farm.  The farm will produce 25,000 tons of biomass yearly.

GreenFuel, which recently celebrated its 7th anniversary, already has a 100 square-meter prototype greenhouse operating at the site in Spain.  GreenFuel ditched the growing tubes, opting for a top-secret tubeless proprietary growing process, one which includes automated harvesting.  Thus far the company has declined to reveal the secretive workings of this new design.

It has, however, announced its intention to scale the production up quickly.  It plans to have a 1,000 square-meter installation online by the end of the year.  The full farm is scheduled to be completed by 2011. 

The plant will take carbon dioxide emissions from the nearby Holcim cement plant near Jerez, Spain and use it to increase algae yields.  This will cut down on Holcim cement plant near Jerez, Spain, almost 10 percent of the factory's output.  This will help the factory meet tougher emissions standards.

The developers are in the process of selecting which strains of algae to grow.  Certain strains are optimized for biodiesel production; bred to produce extra oil.  Other strains produce extra nutrients like protein and make for more nutritious animal feed.

CEO Simon Upfill-Brown acknowledges that the field is full of overly optimistic visions, but insists his company is firmly grounded in reality and a series of successful trials.  He states, "Some people are making clearly outrageous claims. We're at the stage where we can say we are pretty comfortable and very optimistic that we're getting all the way there in phases."

One trouble spot for the upcoming farm is falling gas prices.  With gas low, it may be harder for the farm's biodiesel production to be economically competitive.  This was cited as the resaon for rival Imperium Renewables' delay of its plan to launch a smaller algae farm in Hawaii.

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RE: least partial fail...
By Aragonphx on 10/21/2008 11:51:58 AM , Rating: 2
I had to reply to this. You don't know anything about the water supply in Phoenix and just assume because it is a desert that we don't have enough water when that could not be farther from the truth. Phoenix is planning for a 100 year supply under conditions of significant growth, long term drought, and global climate change.
Phoenix recycles in some form 90 percent of its wastewater, delivering it for use in agriculture, energy production, urban irrigation, aquifer recharge and riparian wetland maintenance.

RE: least partial fail...
By bhieb on 10/21/2008 12:27:57 PM , Rating: 2
Think you missed the point. It is not that Phoenix does not have enough water or that they don't do a good job of recycling it (in fact far better than most). However artificially irrigating a desert is not a good use of fresh water. Even if you recycle 100% of waste water the dry air evaporates far more than you think.

Irrigation in a desert environment is basically creating a micro ecosystem that should not exist. This is done purely for the comfort/convenience of humans. Not that it is bad and I love LV and Pheonix, just an inefficient use of resources.

Just fly over Lake Meade and look at the water line if you think recycling plans are keeping up with growth. I don't think it will ever run dry, but it is certainly struggling to keep up until growth slows down.

RE: least partial fail...
By walk2k on 10/21/2008 1:12:52 PM , Rating: 3

Because GreenFuel’s algae farm is a closed system, overall water use is minimal and evaporation losses are limited.

RE: least partial fail...
By bhieb on 10/21/2008 1:22:09 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, but I was referring to the concept of irrigating Phoenix/LV not this project. Hence the response to the poster about Phoenix.

I apologize if I gave the impression that a closed system would not be effective, obviously it can be much more efficient. This project certainly looks like the best compromise for bio fuel, very little environmental impact and as long as the output > input then cover the Sahara with em.

RE: least partial fail...
By Reflex on 10/21/2008 7:41:37 PM , Rating: 3
One thing here is the concept that deserts are 'wasted' land. They are just as essential globally as rain forests, tundra or arable farmland. They simply serve a different purpose.

In an ideal scenerio, algae production is distributed regionally to avoid transportation waste. No single land type should be abused. Whether or not one is useful for farms is not a measure of whether or not it is a necessary part of the biosphere.

RE: least partial fail...
By Spuke on 10/21/2008 2:00:03 PM , Rating: 2
Even if you recycle 100% of waste water the dry air evaporates far more than you think.
If you recycle 100% of waste water then there is no evaporation of waste water.

RE: least partial fail...
By bhieb on 10/21/2008 2:25:15 PM , Rating: 2
I assume when he said Phoenix recyles 90% of its waste water. He meant waste water (run off, sewage, grey water..), and not evaporated water since I doubt Phoenix has a way to capture that.

But since this project is a closed loop it obviously is not the same.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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